If you haven’t ever heard the phrase, “Millennials are killing…. [insert any number of industries],” a quick Google search will bring up countless articles of how Millennials’ preferences are causing businesses and industries across the globe to collapse. Everything from casual dining to napkins, homeownership and starter homes to fabric softener are referenced as dying industries. Even now, as some of the “Elder Millennials” are entering their 40s, articles have been released as recently as the last quarter of 2021 placing financial blame on Millennials.
While it may be true that the Millennial generation has made different choices with their money than previous generations, generational differences are nothing new. What is new is the prevalence of the Internet to examine the trends in detail – interestingly, the same generation being critiqued is the generation that was at the forefront of the Web 2.0 and social media boom.
When looking at the economic impact created by each generation, it is often the circumstances the generation has endured, and not the generation itself, that have shifted spending habits of consumers. The state of technology and advancement of technological systems has also changed the way consumers shop. In one article, Millennials are directly blamed for the impact of the Smartphone, stating that because of Smartphone use, Millennials have killed the doorbell, fax machines, voicemail, paper maps, external GPS devices, calculators, and alarm clocks.
How, then, are other generations experiencing Ageism? What even is Ageism? When we are referring to Ageism, we are talking about discrimination based on someone’s age, often targeting those that are of younger or older populations. As Millennials continue to kill a variety of industries, Baby Boomers are receiving jabs for their more traditional viewpoints and values, often hearing the phrase “Okay, Boomer,” when they say or do something that is deemed to be uneducated or offensive to undermine their thought processes. You may have also heard phrases such as, “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” or, “My socks have seen more years on Earth than you.” These are also both ways to discredit someone’s experience and opinions based on age.
Ageism is rooted in the systemic bias that there is somehow an “optimal age,” often seen as middle-aged. If you are younger, experiences that you’ve had are minimalized, because many adults are not always aware of how much youth are going through. If you are older, the perception is often that you’ve passed your prime and your ability to learn new skills has diminished, making you obsolete. Ageism is one of the easiest ‘isms to fall into, using our biases to make blanket judgements based on assigned generational qualities and stereotypes. Ageism is also likely a bias that we will all experience at some point if we have not already, since we have all been young and will hopefully all grow older.
When reflecting on Ageism, what are some ways that you can move beyond the biases that you have learned? How can you share your story, either with how you have experienced age privilege or marginalization based on your age? Why is it important to look beyond age when considering experience and skills? As we reflect on Ageism throughout the month of April, we encourage you to pay attention to how age is represented around you and consider your first thoughts when interacting with people from different generations than your own.